Tag Archives: carnatic

Taking a Ride with Ladies Compartment: An Interview

15 Jan
Image by Blankfound Creative

Ladies Compartment is a Mumbai four-piece comprising of Ramya Pothuri (acoustic & vocals), Aarifah Rebello (drums & vocals), Aditi Ramesh (keys & vocals) and Nandita V (bass & vocals).

The band’s sound is a refreshing mix of jazz, soul and blues, with the occasional, intriguing addition of Carnatic classical music. Beyond their sonic palette, the band’s mastery of vocal harmonization really sets them apart. For a taste, have a look at their version of the Beatles’ “Blackbird”. A lone guitar forms a tentpole for the ladies’ four perfectly harmonized vocals in a haunting, stripped-down rendition: a truly unique cover of a timeless classic.

Video by Ladies Compartment via YouTube

If you’re just getting to know the band, let us assure you that these women are not newbies to the scene. Aditi and Ramya are singer-songwriters with a debut EP each; Aarifah, a singer-songwriter in her own right, drums for several other acts, and Nandita is an up-and-coming bassist in the indie music industry. The strength of their individual musical talent creates an easy-going camaraderie that’s highly listenable – and repeatable, too.

We sat down with the ladies earlier this week for a quick chat about their influences, experiences, and plans for the coming year. Read on:

Top Five Records: There’s a great mix of genres in your music – soul, funk, and glimpses of many others, too. What are your key musical influences as a band and as individuals?

Ladies Compartment: Individually, we are four musicians with very different tastes and styles, and we bring our individual influences together to create the sound of Ladies Compartment. If one were to consolidate all of our interests and influences, the list would include Soul, R&B, Funk, Folk, Indian Classical, Jazz, Alternative Rock, Dream Pop, Progressive Rock, Western Classical and Blues music. But these are just influences – we don’t like to label our music because we find this limiting, and one can always go beyond these labels and boundaries when creating music.

TFR: Some of your tunes are well-harmonized ditties while others are much more jazzy and freeform. Give us a little detail into your songwriting process. How do you go about it?

LC: There is no one process we follow. With our earlier songs, Aditi would come up with chords and a rough melody. The band would add instrumentation together, while Ramya and Aditi worked on lyrics and Aarifah and Nandita sealed the piece with smooth transitions and rhythmic patterns. With one of our newer songs, Nandita wrote the lyrics, melody, bassline and backing vocal parts, and the band fleshed it out by adding instruments and modifying the chord structures in certain bits. In our newest song, Aarifah created a rhythmic pattern which the whole band then sat together in one space. Each of us have written our own verse over the same music and you can see how different we are as individuals by the varied ways in which we all have interpreted the music. There is no one process we follow, and we are continuously experimenting with different methods.

TFR: What has been your experience so far as an all-female project in the Indian indie music industry?

LC: We have been well-received and supported by multiple platforms and performance spaces. We have pushed forward by focusing on our music, but the truth remains that people love to overuse and push the ‘all-female’ aspect for branding and this sometimes shifts focus away from the music. We’re trying to move away from this type of branding.

TFR: With the indie scene still being at a somewhat nascent stage, what changes would you like to see for artists to really succeed and cross over into larger audiences?

LC: Monetary returns for artists in the indie scene need to go up. There needs to be more respect for artists, and the careers of artists need to be more sustainable for artists to grow and reach larger audiences. There is an attitude with many venues that if they can get the same act for a lower cost they’ll take the opportunity and pay them less. As a result, many artists are scrambling for survival, and this often stunts their artistic development and ability to reach more people.

TFR: You are hot off a performance at Weekender’s Pune edition this year. How was that experience?

LC: We had a lovely, supportive audience and it was the first time we performed on such a large stage.

TFR: What’s on the radar for Ladies Compartment in 2019?

LC: We are finally going to be recording our original music and releasing it this year. We are also in the process of writing more songs and arranging new covers, so you can expect new material at our live performances this year as well!

TFR: If you had to recommend one or two songs of yours for our first-time listeners, what would they be?

LC: “General Specific” and “Don’t Waste Your Time”.

Ladies Compartment performing “Don’t Waste Your Time” on the talk-show Son of Abish

TFR: Thank you, ladies. Before we wrap up, let’s do a short quick-fire round!

TFR: What would be your dream collaboration (any artist, alive or not)?

LC: Jorja Smith.

TFR: What’s a tune or album that’s been on constant rotation?

LC: “If I Get High” by Nothing But Thieves.

TFR: What’s been your favorite gig so far?

LC: When we were told that our gig at a prominent venue in Bangalore was cancelled upon reaching the venue and we put together a house gig instead, within an hour, with the help of our friends from Bangalore Recording Company and LVNG!

TFR: Who’s an Indian musician / band that you really admire?

LC: Sandunes.

Check out Ladies Compartment’s music on Facebook, Youtube and Soundcloud.

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Agam at Hard Rock Cafe, Hyderabad (20/2/2014)

23 Feb

Harish Sivaramakrishnan

The Indian rock scene has, over the years, engendered numerous artists and acts – many of which have given us reason to feel proud of the music that our country produces today. From the pioneering works of Moheener Ghoraguli in the 1970s to the near-virtuosos like Baiju Dharmajan and Warren Mendonsa, Indian rock has indeed walked a long and meandering path. More importantly, they have established and re-established the fact that our musicians have often been able to step outside the mundane mediocrity of Bollywood and make refreshing music, by drawing heavily from Western rock while remaining faithful to their Indian roots.

Agam hail from Bangalore, and they call themselves a Carnatic-progressive rock band. Their music is thus a heady mix of Carnatic classical, set against an ambitious backdrop of technically challenging rock; this is not surprising, as they cite Indian Ocean, Dream Theater and Rush as their primary influences. The genesis of Agam goes back to the music club of BITS Pilani when vocalist Harish Sivaramakrishnan and drummer Ganesh Ram Nagarajan started jamming casually. They continued their shared passion after college and, after officially forming Agam, their first big breakthrough came when A R Rahman himself adjudged them winners of a band talent hunt on a Tamil TV channel. Since then, they’ve performed in gigs all over the country and have released a studio album in 2012. They have even featured in MTV’s prestigious Coke Studio in the same year.

Their recent gig at Hard Rock Cafe, Hyderabad was a wonderful demonstration of their talent – which they manage to nurture, in spite of all of them being full-time IT professionals today.

The first thing that hits you when you hear them live is the raw classical roots that Harish’s aalaps stem from. His voice reaches soaring crests and peaks, all the while remaining unflinchingly musical and melodic, reminding one that classical vocals continue to be the mainstay of any fusion band today.

But let that not downplay the inherent talents of the other members. T. Praveen Kumar’s guitar work and Ganesh’s pounding drums were also top notch, and while the keyboardist never did come into the limelight (much to my disappointment, as the keyboard forms a cornerstone of prog music, more so than the guitar), he kept the strings and the chords flowing just fine, making the overall experience wholly enjoyable. And the bassist – who was temporarily replacing their usual bassist, who couldn’t be present for the gig – did some splendid slapping on a five-string bass.

Agam

Agam performed a number of original compositions from their album The Inner Self Awakens. And much to the delight of the fans, they threw in a couple of A R Rahman covers as well – from Dil Se and Tu Hi Re. The covers were so beautifully rendered that even the most devout of Rahman or Hariharan fans would have appreciated them wholeheartedly. After nearly two long hours of beautiful music, when the show was reaching its unfortunate end, they succumbed to popular pressure and did an encore of two of their more popular songs, “Dhanashree Thillana” and “The Boat Song”, both of which were met with wild cheers from the crowd.

Most of their songs, I observed, demonstrated a high level of technical proficiency – be it with the guitar solos or the drums – and the evening reached its instrumental climax when Ganesh executed a wonderful Peart-inspired drum solo that left the entire HRC reeling. It was an absolute delight watching him wield those sticks with such dexterity; he exhibited infectious levels of enthusiasm coupled with such consummate ease that it was difficult to not admire his style of play. I also observed (given the rabid Rush fan that I am) their music is extremely inspired by Rush. A particular example is the beginning chord/drum progression in “Swans of Saraswati”, which seemed like a tribute to Rush’s iconic “YYZ”. (For the ones who are unaware, the introduction to “YYZ”, played in a time signature of 5/4, repeatedly renders “Y-Y-Z” in Morse Code using various musical arrangements, and it is one of Rush’s best known instrumental pieces.)

After the gig ended, my friend and I rushed over to meet Ganesh and Harish, and we chatted about an Alma Mater that we all shared. All in all, I enjoyed Agam thoroughly. I have heard their studio album a number of times, and while I wouldn’t blame the album per se, I must say, I liked them live far better. To the extent that, if you asked me whether I would go for another Agam gig any time soon, I would say yes. Without a second thought.

– Subhayan Mukerjee (@wrahool)

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